5 Quick Used Car Buying Tips
Buying and securing a car can usually be fun and exciting, but the process of doing it may not always be. New car purchases can sometimes be a little more straight forward with much of the debate being left to negotiations and financing, but used cars are a completely different animal.
Here are 5 quick used car buying tips to help improve your next used car purchase and ownership experience:
1. Know Your Budget
Image Credit: Zombcars
This may seem pretty straight forward, but you’d be surprised how many people go through the process of buying a used car, get to the part where money is involved – usually financing – and they find out the hard way that they either don’t have enough credit to secure a loan, or they didn’t estimate for all the financing and registration fees, tax, tag, title, etc. This goes for both buying from a dealership and private sales.
I would suggest that you visit a credit union to see how large of a line of credit you can secure, and in turn also get an idea of the monthly payments. You can then use that line of credit to shop around within a specific budget which may even help during negotiations. If possible, avoid financing through the dealership, they’re going to hike up the interest rates to be much higher than that of a credit union no matter how high your credit stands.
If you’re paying with cash, well, just make sure you factor in Uncle Sam, i.e., taxes, when purchasing.
2. Research Research Research!
Image Credit: Raphael Belly Photography
I could write an entire post about research, but in general it’s always good to have an idea of what your resources are when buying a used car. Research can be your most powerful ally when shopping around, and it really supports and enables many of the tips on this list to be effective. For the purposes of this article, let’s just start with the basics…
Resources for researching car values
There are so many websites out there that let you search for the car of your dreams, and these same sites give you an idea of what the appropriate market value is for a car in your area. I always consult these sites when searching for a used car, and being able to compare different cars with varying prices/miles has really helped me reduce the hassles of hopping dealership to dealership. These sites are essential for the everyman who doesn’t have access to dealer-level resources. For starters, here’s what I recommend:
I purposely left Craigslist off my resource list because it makes it a little more complicated to get an idea of a car’s true fair market value. Oftentimes there are very motivated sellers on craigslist and there is a lot of fierce competition to be the cheapest on the market, so if you do decide to use this resource, tread lightly and beware of “too good to be true” listings. Once you get more experienced in buying cars, Craigslist can be one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal to secure that rare “barn find” or better yet, a car that you can buy at a ridiculously good price.
Research specifics about the car you’re shopping for
Let’s say you decide on the car you want, what’s next? Well, figure out what you’re really about to buy. Visit car forums, enthusiast car blogs, and independent video reviews to get a better understanding on the unspoken implications of owning a particular vehicle. The world is your oyster when you visit a magical site called Google and use a functionality called search. Really, it’s helpful, and it’s made people billions.
Seriously though, this is a critical part of the research process. For example, if I was in the market for a E46 BMW M3, I would type into google the following phrases to get a better idea where I can find out more about the car, typical issues, maintenance and repair costs, ownership experiences, etc:
- E46 BMW M3 forum
- E46 BMW M3 common issues
- E46 BMW M3 service intervals
- E46 BMW M3 blog
- E46 BMW M3 video review
- E46 BMW M3 ownership
CARFAX is somewhat of a taboo subject since there are sometimes way to bypass the results and ‘trick’ the system regarding repairs, etc., but if you are seriously considering a specific car, and depending on how old the car is, purchasing the CARFAX report may be a wise investment. Here’s how Carafax describes it’s services:
Every CARFAX Report contains information that can impact a consumer’s decision about a used vehicle. Some types of information that a CARFAX Report may include are:
- Title information, including salvaged or junked titles
- Flood damage history
- Total loss accident history
- Odometer readings
- Lemon history
- Number of owners
- Accident indicators, such as airbag deployments
- State emissions inspection results
- Vehicle use (taxi, rental, lease, etc.)
In fact, most car dealerships provide complimentary viewings of the CARFAX for their prospective customers so no additional purchase is necessary; private sales however, will require you to purchase the entire CARFAX report yourself ($39.99 at the time of this writing), or you can agree to split the cost with the seller.
3. Find a Reliable Mechanic
Image Credit: Speedhunters.com
This is one of the most overlooked parts of buying a new car – who will you trust to lay their hands on it? You might say that you will do all the wrenching yourself, and if you are knowledgeable in that specific make and model this can be a great way to save lots of money, but outside of tire rotations and oil changes, most people might not be comfortable performing serious maintenance or repairs on their car.
You might also say that you have a warranty and can just take the vehicle to a dealership when unexpected issues arise, but if you’re looking for a car that is outside of warranty, finding a reliable mechanic can make life a lot easier. Finding someone who will not only treat your car as if it was theirs, but will also give you a fair price is invaluable. Even if your car is under warranty, a trustworthy and certified mechanic might be able to perform crucial services on your vehicle at a fraction of the cost at the dealership.
4. Befriend a Dealer
Image Credit: GTRBlog.com
This one is a little difficult because not everyone can find a trustworthy dealer to befriend, but if you do happen to be one of the very lucky few who know of a friend who owns a dealership, ask them for help! Dealers have access to a network of auctions around the US, and they are able to find out true wholesale values on a car which not only help you negotiate a better price with a prospective seller, but that dealer friend might even be able to secure you a trustworthy car from auction.
5. Don’t Catch The Feels
Image Credit: Autocar.uk
Seriously. Use your head. Use logic. Use anything else but your heart alone. Don’t get emotionally attached to a used car unless you’re browsing Craigslist and come across a one of one Pagani Huayra 730S. If that’s not the case, however, leave feelings out of the equation. It doesn’t matter how perfect the car seems, there will always be another one to pop up. I’ve personally experienced it countless times and seen friends do the same. It’s best not to get too attached until you have the title in hand. Don’t impulse buy, for you risk regretting the purchase, and don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal if it does not meet your specifications.
- Bring a knowledgeable friend with you to inspect the vehicle or pay a mechanic/dealership to conduct a PPI (pre purchase inspection)
- Check to see if the brakes have any life left or if the tires are worn
- Look for signs of surface rust or fading on the paint and subframe railings
- Look for signs of oil or any other leaks; generally speaking unless it’s been raining, moist or grimy dark spots in an engine bay could be bad news
- You’re buying the seller as much as you are the car, make sure to get a feel for their personality and proceed accordingly
- Check underneath the car to see if there are any bends in the subframe
- Press all the buttons and make sure they work
- Go for a long test drive and take it through all the gears; when you get back, reinspect for leaks
Hopefully these used car buying tips have been helpful. All in all, when buying a used car it’s best to learn as much as you can about what you’re potentially getting into. After doing it a few times, you will come to see that deciding on, locating and purchasing a used car may come as second nature to you. More so, you will hugely increase your chances of having positive ownership experiences from here on out. Who doesn’t want that?
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The opinions of the author in this post do not reflect the views of Velocity Crew as a whole.